High-tech trucking in the far north

From the March 2015 issue.

A side-tipper combination has clocked up more than 170,000km shuttling between the EU’s only chromite mine in Finland and the port of Tornio - carrying 78 tonnes without a special permit.

Trucking in the far north of Europe is more than just a job. Considered one of the world’s last wildernesses, life in the region is largely determined by the polar day phenomenon, where the sun doesn’t set for months on end, only to give way to a long and cold winter season where daylight is scarce.

Performing shift work like truck driving in such an environment is a tough task and can easily blur the line between night and day.

For Tuomas Seppi, maintaining a reasonable sleep-wake rhythm is even more of a challenge as he spends most of his time driving a concrete truck some 700 metres below the surface. But the bristly Finn is not too fussed about the constant darkness. “At first it was difficult, but now I’m used to it,” he says in the calm, earnest way that is typical for those at home in Europe’s far north.

Working in almost total darkness, Seppi’s job is providing the concrete needed to stabilise the tunnels stretching out below the ground. As he only has a medium-duty licence, the vehicle that made the mine famous is outside his reach, up on the surface, operated by a team of experienced drivers that hold a so-called BE/CE permit.

During the last polar night, Seppi’s employer, local businessman Samuli Suorso, added a special heavy-duty side tipper combination to the fleet that is used to transport the chromite ore from the mine to the Outokumpu ferrochrome plant in Tornio, a port located some 40km away from Kemi.

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